Planting conifers won't help biodiversity on farms warns Teagasc

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Claire Fox

Claire Fox

Planting conifers won't help biodiversity on farms, Teagasc countryside management Specialist, Catherine Keena has warned.

Ms Keena said that while planting Sitka spruce is important for climate change, it won't do anything to increase biodiversity on farms.

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"If we want biodiversity we have to plant native woodlands. All our species are connected to native woodlands. I worry that there's a danger out there in the future that farmers will think that if they have an acre of conifers that that's enough for biodiversity but it's not.

"They has to be native and you need a mixture" she said.

However, Minister for Communications Climate Action and the environment told the Farming Independent that "pure Sitka spruce" plantations are planted in Ireland anymore and ways will have to be found to make planting "more acceptable" to farmers.

Meanwhile Ms Keena said that a third of Ireland's 100 different bee species are under threat and that species of certain plants and animals have disappeared.

"Bees across the world that have gone extinct have been examined and studies show that they went extinct because the plants they lived off no longer existed anymore so it's all connected.

"Farmers think that their farm yards are a buzz with biodiversity but what is happening is that specialised species are gone and general ones are taking over.

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Ms Keena advised farmers looking to conserve biodiversity that they should " keep what they have and maintain it". This includes maintaining field margins and ensuring that hedgerows are at least 1.5m in height but ideally higher.

"Getting rid of field margins and hedgerows for the sake of tidiness is just wrong. Well maintained field margins never caused any damage."

Ms Keena pointed out that field size can sometimes be the "elephant in the room" when it comes to biodiversity and she urged farmers with fields sizes larger than 5.5 hectares to seriously consider planting hedgerows.

"I did a study of farms in Waterford where field sizes ranged from 1.2 hectares to 37 hectares. If we're looking at a situation in 20 years time where there could be 100 hectare fields this would seriously impact the environment."

She added that if farmers got their field margins and hedgerows right they could then implement native woodland and wild bird cover.

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